Traffic circle remains nameless 'Unity Circle' coalition chafes at what it says is unnecessary delay


After hundreds of marchers flooded the state capital in February to protest a Ku Klux Klan rally, a fired-up Annapolis group put together a petition with 861 signatures to name the planned traffic circle on West Street Unity Circle.

Alderman Cynthia A. Carter, a Ward 6 Democrat, introduced the resolution in March, and Mayor Dean L. Johnson referred it to a citizens committee working on the circle.

After nine months, a handful of meetings and other bureaucratic workings, it seems that naming the city's fourth circle isn't going to be easy or quick.

The $7.9 million circle remains nameless. And the name-selection process that the West Street Urban Review Committee has come up with will take four months, once it is initiated next month.

That is four months too long, said Paul Callens of Unity Now, the coalition of Annapolitans pushing for the name Unity Circle. His group is lobbying Johnson to return responsibility for selecting the name to the Annapolis Board of Aldermen to speed the process.

"It has been frustrating," Callens said. "We're coming up on the one-year anniversary [of the protest march] on Feb. 7, and there has been no action on it."

Johnson said he wants the name to be chosen carefully and that he prefers the four-month process because it includes soliciting comment from residents and community groups.

"Names mean a lot," he said. "Especially with naming something that's going to be as significant as that. Over the years, [the West Street circle] will be the way into the city." City officials have referred to it as "the Gateway Circle Project."

The two-lane circle at Taylor Avenue and West Street has been under construction since May and is expected to be completed by summer 2000.

Dirk Geratz, a city planner who has worked with the citizens committee, said the group was assigned the name selection in late summer and has met twice.

Next month, it will send letters to residents and community groups asking for nominations and a 200-word explanation of each suggested name. After a month, the group wants to hold a public hearing at which residents could lobby for names. The committee will then pick three names and present them to the Annapolis city council, which will make the final choice.

"We hope to wrap this up by the end of spring," Geratz said.

The city's other circles were named without fuss. State and Church circles were named after the State House and St. Anne's Episcopal Church when they were built in the late 1800s.

A committee of residents, which built Memorial Circle near City Dock in 1885, initially named it City Circle. The city renamed it Memorial Circle in the 1970s to honor Annapolis veterans.

Callens said he wants the mayor to return the selection to the city council because "it's just going to wind up there anyway."

"Unity is a fundamental principle that our nation is founded on," he said. Feb. 7 "was a powerful day, and it demonstrated so clearly that this is a strong value in this community. This will be a monument to that."

Johnson and others are determined to adhere to the longer process.

"I want to hear what the people who live here would like to have for the name of the circle," said Alderman Louise Hammond, a Ward 1 Democrat who represents neighborhoods near the circle. "People in the community have been thinking of names for the circle for years."

She said she has heard suggestions that the circle be named after former Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, former city historian St. Clair Wright or the Brewer family.

Residents "should be heard, as well as any other group that feels that they have a name that's worthy," Hammond said. "I don't see how any one group should have an advantage over another."

Pub Date: 12/31/98

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